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CoreLogic® recently released its latest Single-Family Rent Index (SFRI), which analyzes single-family rent price changes nationally and across more than 20 metropolitan areas. Data collected for October 2020 shows a national rent increase of 3.1 percent year-over-year, up from a 2.9 percent year-over-year increase in October 2019. This is the first time since the start of the pandemic that national rent prices have outpaced their previous-year growth rate.

Despite a slowdown of rental prices this spring and summer, work-from-home needs and a desire for outdoor space increased demand for single-family homes, ensuring a pickup in the pace of single-family rent growth. Similar to the low inventory of homes for purchase, the supply of single-family rentals also declined during the pandemic. Over the summer, the months’ supply of single-family rentals fell by 9 percent.

“Demand has grown for higher-tier single-family rentals as more people opt to rent larger spaces in less densely populated areas,” said Molly Boesel, principal economist at CoreLogic. “Rent growth of lower-tier rentals still lags behind pre-pandemic rates, which is to be expected in an economy particularly challenging for low-wage earners.”

To gain an accurate view of single-family rental prices, CoreLogic examines four tiers of rental prices. In October 2020, the national single-family rent growth across the four tiers, and the year-over-year changes, were as follows:

Lower-priced (75 percent or less than the regional median): 3 percent, down from 3.6 percent in October 2019, but up from 2.4 percent in September 2020

Lower-middle priced (75 percent to 100 percent of the regional median): 3 percent, unchanged from October 2019

Higher-middle priced (100 percent to 125 percent of the regional median): 3.2 percent, up from 2.6 percent in October 2019

Higher-priced (125 percent or more than the regional median): 3.1 percent, up from 2.7 percent in October 2019

Among the 20 metro areas shown in Table 1, and for 23 consecutive months, Phoenix had the highest year-over-year increase in single-family rents in October 2020 at 8.9 percent, which is also up from the September 2020 annual increase of 6.9 percent. Tucson, Ariz., had the second-highest rent price growth in October 2020 with a gain of 7.6 percent, followed by Charlotte, N.C., at 5.2 percent. In Las Vegas—which has been hard hit by the decline in tourism—the local market has maintained higher-than-average rent growth due to renters moving to more affordable markets from expensive and densely populated areas like Los Angeles. Conversely, Boston posted an annual decline in rent prices of 4.1 percent. The drop could be attributed to a trend toward consolidating households, with many renters opting to live with family or friends as they navigate through the pandemic.

While the rental market continues towards stabilization, unemployment rates remain elevated across the country, with some regions and metros experiencing higher rates of job loss than others—creating downward pressure on rent prices. For example, Honolulu posted an employment decrease of 15.4 percent, compared to October 2019, which has contributed to a 0.4 percent decline in single-family rent prices. Hawaii began lifting travel restrictions in mid-October; however, tourism has yet to rebound. As the economy slowly recovers from the impact of the pandemic and contends with the resurgence of coronavirus cases, we may see continued fluctuation of rent prices in metros across the nation.

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